From a music video to a full-on video game: On Dec. 6, Balenciaga is to unveil “Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow,” which it’s billing as a “record-breaking video game” set in the year 2031 and featuring Demna Gvasalia’s main collection for fall 2021.
The “allegorical adventure” features environments and characters using cutting-edge photogrammetry and the most advanced technology for game hosting, according to the Paris-based fashion house, noting that “Afterworld” sets a record “for the largest volumetric video project ever undertaken.”
The unusual format is the latest alternative to the runway for Gvasalia, who won acclaim for his contribution to the most recent Paris Fashion Week: an earworm of a fashion film set to Corey Hart’s “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night” and showcasing Balenciaga’s summer pre-collection hurtling through rain-slicked Paris streets after dark.
“A hero avatar advances throughout distinct zones, motivated by tasks and interactions,” the house said, sharing details of the online game first with WWD. “The narrative of ‘Afterworld’ is anchored to mythological pasts and projected futures with timeless archetypes and speculative imagery.”
Balenciaga’s pre-collection sprang partly from imagining what fashion might be like in 2030 in a conceptual way, and the idea carries over into what’s displayed in the video game.
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“A theme of Balenciaga fall 2021 is human destiny, as seen by an interactive, gamified journey,” the house said. “The world may appear to be decaying at first, but it is far from a dystopian view, showing instead the slow return to a healthier balance of nature and industry.”
In fact, shrewd and nimble players can transcend the “Afterworld” by winning the game. The reward?
“A real-life breathing exercise set in a virtual utopia. In the end, the hero has finally become (as it is referred to in Hero’s Journey analysis) a ‘Master of Two Worlds’,” Balenciaga said, apparently alluding to studies of archetypal heroes by the late American academic Joseph Campbell.
A strong-minded designer who frequently bends and reshapes the fashion system according to his latest thinking, Gvasalia revealed in an exclusive interview with WWD last September that he would now show pre-collections during Paris Fashion Week, and his main collections in June and December, reversing his previous ordering.
He also expressed a wish to break away from the hamster wheel of doing runway shows every season.
Famous for his dramatic Balenciaga fashion shows in a mammoth television studio on the edge of Paris, Gvasalia had no choice but to abandon such mega productions, given restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
He hasn’t ruled out runway shows in the future — and intends to stage one for Balenciaga’s return to haute couture next July – but aims to surprise every season.
“Fashion has become such a checklist. And I feel like I personally want to try to do it differently,” he said.
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